The Lady Professor

by Robert L. Switzer
Bink Books
Publication date: May 2017


Emma Hansen, a poor farm girl born in 1900, has exceptional scholastic ability and a deep fascination with the natural world. She fights her way through poverty, her family’s indifference, and prejudices against women to attend high school and Hancock College, a small Midwestern school. Encouraged by the college’s only female professor, Emma conducts her first research with dung beetles and micro-organisms.

The Lady Professor is a novel about the human side of real science, historically and scientifically accurate, but readily intelligible to non-scientists. It portrays a transitional time for women in America and would particularly interest young women who are drawn to careers in science.

Why we signed The Lady Professor . . .
Although this story is not based on a real person, she represents countless of early twentieth century women scientists that were shunned, discredited, and had their work stolen by men. Just going to college, let alone becoming scientists, brought societal disapproval upon the aspiring women. We like that the book starts when she was a young girl and shows how she developed her scientific inquisitive mind.

From the Author . . .
I love realistic literary fiction that presents interesting, complex characters who live fascinating lives. I cheer for books that present the way science is done by real people in real life, as opposed to stereotypes of scientists. I have a strong interest in literature, science and twentieth century American social history. The Lady Professor presses all of these buttons!


About the Author . . .
Robert L. Switzer is Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned a B. S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1961, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966 and joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1968. He is the author or co-author of 138 original scientific research articles, reviews and book chapters and the co-author of the textbook Experimental Biochemistry (W. H. Freeman). He was a Guggenheim Fellow and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. In recent years Robert has turned to a career in creative writing. His non-fiction memoir A Family Farm: Life on an Illinois Dairy Farm was published in 2012 by the Center for American Places, Columbia College, Chicago. Robert and his wife Bonnie, an artist, live in Urbana, Illinois.